The core planar cell polarity gene, Vangl2, directs adult corneal epithelial cell alignment and migration

Amy S. Findlay, D. Alessio Panzica, Petr Walczysko, Amy B. Holt, Deborah J. Henderson, John D. West, Ann M. Rajnicek, J. Martin Collinson* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This study shows that the core planar cell polarity (PCP) genes direct the aligned cell migration in the adult corneal epithelium, a stratified squamous epithelium on the outer surface of the vertebrate eye. Expression of multiple core PCP genes was demonstrated in the adult corneal epithelium. PCP components were manipulated genetically and pharmacologically in human and mouse corneal epithelial cells in vivo and in vitro. Knockdown of VANGL2 reduced the directional component of migration of human corneal epithelial (HCE) cells without affecting speed. It was shown that signalling through PCP mediators, dishevelled, dishevelled-associated activator of morphogenesis and Rho-associated protein kinase directs the alignment of HCE cells by affecting cytoskeletal reorganization. Cells in which VANGL2 was disrupted tended to misalign on grooved surfaces and migrate across, rather than parallel to the grooves. Adult corneal epithelial cells in which Vangl2 had been conditionally deleted showed a reduced rate of wound-healing migration. Conditional deletion of Vangl2 in the mouse corneal epithelium ablated the normal highly stereotyped patterns of centripetal cell migration in vivo from the periphery (limbus) to the centre of the cornea. Corneal opacity owing to chronic wounding is a major cause of degenerative blindness across the world, and this study shows that Vangl2 activity is required for directional corneal epithelial migration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number160658
Number of pages18
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number10
Early online date1 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) DTG PhD studentship to A.F., an Anatomical Society PhD Studentship (‘The Roles of planar cell polarity genes in a classical anatomical system: the cornea’) to D.A.P./J.M.C. and BBSRC Project Grants BB/J015172/1 and BB/J015237/1 to J.D.W. and J.M.C., respectively.


  • cornea
  • epithelium
  • planar cell polarity
  • Vangl2
  • cell migration


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